The primary mandate of the California Wheat Commission is to support research that improves California wheat quality and marketability. The Commission's partnership with University of California researchers has always been critical to the viability of the wheat industry in California.
In research, the Commission provides funding for the wheat breeding program and the statewide field trials program at the University of California, Davis. For the past four years, the Commission also funded special mini-grants for Cooperative Extension field research, as well as a wheat root study at UC Riverside.
UC DAVIS WHEAT BREEDING PROGRAM
California is fortunate to have Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky leading the Wheat Breeding Program and Molecular Genetics laboratory at the University of California, Davis. You can view some of his lab's accomplishments on his website: please click here.
Dubcovsky, originally from Argentina, is a world-renowned wheat breeder. He is a member of the National Academy of Science, a recipient of the Wolf World Award in Agriculture, and the Project Leader of a five year, $25 million grant awarded by USDA's Competitive Grants Program. The Triticeae Coordinated Agricultural Project (T-CAP) is developing methods and new cultivars to minimize the damage of climate change on crop production. Their long-term objective is a 10% reduction in both nitrogen and water use in barley and wheat production through the development of improved varieties adapted to the climate of the coming century. TCAP is also helping to train wheat breeders in universities across the country.
Photo Credit to UC Davis, click here
Wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky received the 2017 UC Davis Innovator of the Year Award:
The California Wheat Commission was the industry partner for two 4-year grants awarded to Dr. Dubcovsky under the U.C. Discovery Grant program. The first 4-year grant, ending in 2010, was titled "Molecular tools to engineer California wheat varieties resistant to stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis)". The purpose of this grant was to use molecular markers to map stripe rust resistant genes and, as a result, several new genes for stripe rust were discovered. Most of the wheat varieties now marketed in California are resistant to stripe rust. This grant was matched dollar-for-dollar by the State, with $610,800 total funding for the wheat breeding program.
The second 4-year project, which completed in 2014, was titled "Improving California Wheat Quality and Nutritional Value" and included research on reducing cadmium uptake in Durum wheat, increasing the concentration of resistant starch in the grain, and increasing grain protein concentration and quality. The Commission's total 4-year funding was $480,000 ($120,000/year) and was matched by $336,000 of additional funding from the State of California.
With the end of the shared funding available under the Discovery Grant program, the Commission increased its funding for the wheat breeding program to $195,000 for FY17/18 and $198,000 for FY 18/19. Funding decisions are made at the Commission's April meeting.
UC VARIETY TRIALS AND COLLABORATOR PROGRAM
The University of California, Davis conducts regional trials in fourteen locations around the state to evaluate the agronomic performance of public and private small grains varieties. The results of these trials are summarized in the Commission's Certified Wheat Seed Buying Guide, but the details can be seen on the University's small grains page.
The Small Grains page of the University of California's website has a wealth of information, including Agronomy Progress reports, a Small Grains Production Manual, Pest Management of Small Grains, Cultivar Descriptions, and Characteristics of California Cultivars.
The California Wheat Collaborator Program provides an opportunity to evaluate wheat varieties being considered for release in the California market. Breeders are invited to submit their most promising varieties to be grown out in specific locations following agreed-upon agronomic practices. After harvest, Dr. Mark Lundy at UC Davis sends out samples to milling and baking quality labs around the country (including the Commission's lab) to be milled and baked into bread or made into pasta. Then, in the Fall, all interested parties in the wheat value chain gather in Davis to discuss each variety's performance. Agronomic data is also made available, but the focus is on end-use quality.